History of Brandaris
Brandaris Maritime is best known for our flagship Brandaris, a 63’ historic Dutch sailing vessel that shares her name with the northern most lighthouse in Holland. Both the lighthouse, which has operated since 1594, and the Dutch yacht are named for a Dutch sea god. The yacht Brandaris was built in Amsterdam, at the Amsterdam Shipyard, one of the finest shipyards in Holland. She was launched in 1938 as the private yacht of shipyard owner and famous Dutch designer William De Vries Lentsch, Jr.
Upon her launching, and in anticipation of the invasion of Holland by the Germany as W.W. II exploded across Europe, Brandaris was hidden in a small canal in Holland and covered over with trees and bushes to hide her from the invaders. When the coast was clear, Brandaris made a colorful escape from the German occupation carrying with her the precious cargo of refugee children escaping the Nazi imprisonment. This trip brought her and her cargo to safe keeping in England. Later in 1940, Brandaris was called on, along with many small boats of all kinds, to participate in the famous Evacuation of Dunkirk. She is credited with having saved 330 British troops.
After the war Brandaris was purchased by an American Colonel from the Harkness family of Philadelphia. She arrived in the United States by way of an ambitious Atlantic crossing on her own bottom shortly after the war. Subsequent owners in the United States celebrated her unique pedigree as she sailed up and down the east coast from the British West Indies to the Canadian Maritimes.
With her purchase in 1985 by the Somers family, Brandaris found a welcome and comfortable berth in the historic village of Wickford, in North Kingstown, RI. The family made their home aboard her. The Somers family, working with the extremely talented craftsman at Wickford Shipyard and the surrounding area, undertook a five-year refit of Brandaris. This renewed and restored the beauty and pedigree of this historically significant vessel.
After Brandaris’ return to her original splendor, the Somers family desired to share her with the public through charter activities. The pursuit of documentation and certification for passenger vessel operations in New England was complicated by the Jones Act, a federal law that places certain restrictions on the use of foreign built vessels in U.S. coastal waters. Authorities required the vessel’s owners to appeal to the Congress of the United States for a waiver of the Jones Act. This process required lengthy correspondences through congressional channels.
On June 14th (Flag Day) in 1993, U.S. Congressman Ronald Machtley, of Rhode Island, introduced a bill, HR. 2409, to grant Brandaris a waiver of the Jones Act. Based on her historic significance and the persistent efforts of her owners to offer her for public access, Brandaris was granted a release from the restrictions of the Jones Act.
Having successfully overcome this hurdle to receive documentation with endorsement for coastwise trade, the next obstacle the vessel had to surmount was passing stringent Coast Guard inspections. This process resulted in her final certification as subchapter T Coast Guard inspected passenger vessel. Operating out of Wickford, R.I., Capt. Somers family offered a full range of charter operations for over 15 years. These included family charters, corporate outings, weddings, birthdays and even funerals.
The vessel hosted a wide range of educational programs including a Classroom Afloat program offering experiential learning programs and numerous sailing adventures in events as an American Sail Training Association (ASTA) Tall Ship.
Currently, Brandaris is undergoing another major retrofit. She still provides a wonderful educational opportunity for those who wish to learn about this historic vessel.